Local NPR affiliate KUAR-FM, 89. 1, is airing a story today on a $20 million plan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the waterfowl habitat this season in states like Arkansas. The goal is to keep millions of water birds from getting mired in the Gulf oil spill.

In all, the agency’s plan covers about 150,000 acres in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

According to the report by KUAR’s Kelly MacNeil, Arkansas landowners have already received $3 million to participate in the program, which works like this:

One of the farmers McLellan is working with is Keith Watkins. He grows soybeans and rice in southeast White County.

“This is a rice field, precision-leveled.”

The field we’re looking at is a bright feathery green right now. But when the rice is harvested, Watkins will get $45 an acre to keep it flooded from November to February. That’s a financial boon, but it brings other perks, too.

“I hunt, my sons hunt, and two of the guys who work for me hunt also, so they’re really excited about it. They’re hoping it’ll hold more ducks in this area for the whole season, is what they’re hoping for.”

As MacNeil reports, there’s little indication the plan will have any meaningful affect on the birds’ ancient migratory patterns. But the side benefits to Arkansas duck hunters is obvious. In their eyes, anything anyone can do to lure and keep more ducks in Arkansas during the season can’t hurt.

Meanwhile, the season approaches! The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is set to choose among three options for this year’s 60-day season at its regular meeting in August.


Listen to Kelly MacNeil’s full report.

Complete information from the USDA on the program, including maps, timelines and habitat details.

Will it work? The New York Times on the program and what efforts officials are considering in the Gulf itself.